In 1938-39, Flint Hobten participated in the Voss Expedition, a survey of Antarctica by airship. The voyage was an attempt by Norwegian-American explorer Abram Voss to reach the as-yet unexplored South Pole via lighter-than-air craft. His dirigible, the Stjernen
, set out from Christchurch, New Zealand in November 1938, and embarked on a planned 12 month survey of the Antarctic continent, including an abortive attempt to reach the pole.
The Stjernen, built and launched in 1937, was among the most modern such craft of her day. Its construction privately financed by Abram Voss, who also designed her, the airship was a custom-built semi-rigid type (similar to the earlier N class
airships, used for Arctic exploration), 702 feet in length, and carrying a crew of 18. She was filled with non-flammable helium, and incorporated the best cold-weather equipment and design features of her day, including an electric engine deicing system and a lifting gas heating system to prevent ice buildup on the envelope. The rigid keel and under-hanging control gondola contained crew accommodations, a state-of-the-art laboratory, photographic dark-room, machine shop, equipment bays, a small motion picture screening room and a library. The ship carried a partially disassembled Meyers OTW
light airplane modified for Antarctic flying, the fuselage of which served as an engine gondola with its wings removed; also carried was a 1938 model American Bantam
automobile modified for use on the Antarctic ice.
The voyage to the coast of Antarctica was uneventful, as were the first few weeks of surveying. In early December, the Stjernen came into contact with the German Neuschwabenland
expedition's Dornier Wal
flying boats, and was warned to avoid the area henceforth. In compliance, the airship turned inland to begin its attempt to reach the pole.
It was the last anyone would see of the Stjernen, and most of its crew.
Beginning its flight inland toward the South Pole, the Stjernen was turned off its course by a violent storm front, and was pushed deep into an uncharted region of the continent's interior. Four days later, it flew over a previously unknown mountain range
, and was forced to set down in the face of increasingly violent weather.
According to logs provided by survivors of the expedition, the crew of the Stjernen waited several days for the weather to die down, moving the airship into the mouth of an enormous cave for protection. Once the weather cleared, however, they decided to survey the surrounding area.
To their amazement, they discovered an enormous, apparently uninhabited complex of unidentifiable structures in the valley below, with architecture not seen in any known Human culture on Earth, past or present. Flint Hobten, leading a small group, decided to explore the cave in which the airship was stored, where more ruins were apparently discovered.
Little is known about the particulars of this discovery, or what happened next, as few legible logs exist, and even fewer of the expedition's scant survivors have agreed to say anything of what they saw. Apparently, wild animals of some description attacked the crew and killed most of them, leaving only a handful alive. The attack was barely repelled, and left irreparable damage to the Stjernen's engines, stranding the ship. The remaining crew subsequently escaped on foot, arriving at the coast of Antarctica after a harrowing trek across the continent. They were picked up by a British whaling ship and returned to England in late 1939.
Flint Hobten, the senior surviving member of the expedition, refuses to speak about what he discovered in the depths of the cave to this day.